1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

learning Country music

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DownhillWillie, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. DownhillWillie


    May 22, 2007
    hi guys, been a rock n roll bassist all my life.
    been on a ton of stages from big to small.
    my skill level is up there with a pro level (not a reader)
    i have tried out for a couple of country groups byt am always quickly identified as "one of those guys" aka ex rocker trying a new genre....anyway i've never missed out on a group i wanted to join....that is until i tried out for these country acts....I just don't know the basic chops to walk in a lay it down with these guys.
    Anyway.....are there any books/cd's out there that you'd recommend to get me a solid understanding of country bass playing?
    again i can play, it's just getting this genre into my head so i don't stick out like a sore thumb when i walk into these auditions..
    Please keep the flaming and hate responses to a minamal amount as i really am looking for some help with this;).
  2. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Yep, it's different. Dirt simple, but, you gotta know how to do simple. It's mostly major, 4/4 time, three chord progression and when in doubt less is more.

    We play ole time Country and there is only one song with a minor chord in all our selections. Dirt simple I-IV-V7-I gets it done. Some new Country will throw in the vi and maybe the ii, but it's heavy on the ole classic I-IV-V7-I.

    The following video goes into detail on how to play old time Country. New Country just adds some Rock influence to the mix, 8 to the bar, etc.

    Root-five with chromatic walks to the next chord. Anything more than that will get you some fish eyes from the guys.

    We open every session with Heartache.

    Have fun.
  3. davedblyoo

    davedblyoo "All the mayhem and none of the sticky mess." Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2012
    Augusta, GA
    Traditional country music is based on the I-IV -V progression. Typically what you would do is play the root note and immediately follow it with the fifth of that root. Dig up "Good Hearted Woman" on Youtube. That bass line is an almost stereotypical country bass line. Another thing to remember in traditional country bass playing is that there is a lot of space in between the notes and busy bass playing is a big no-no is this instance. When I say traditional country music, I'm thinking Conway Twitty, George Jones, and George Strait.

    New country is a whole different ball game. New country is basically 80's rock hiding behind a little steel guitar and some fiddle. If you have a five string don't be afraid to bust it out at this point. Bass parts are a little busier but typically follow the guitar. Think Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, and Zack Brown Band.

    There is a book from Mel Bay about country bass, but the best way to absorb it is just to listen to some. Country bass is technically easy to play, but hard to master because it is based largely on feel.
  4. Session1969

    Session1969 Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2010
    Ask yourself this, "How many country songs have I learned ? Since you can play , I'd start by learning your favorites and standards. I wouldn't consider myself a country bassist but I've played some very popular ones over the last few years in variety cover bands. If I were looking to play in a country band , I'd first learn a bunch and then go to auditions.

    I answered an ad a couple years ago for a power blues band and I thought because I knew a few Stevie Ray Vaughn songs that it wouldn't be a problem. Boy was I wrong. Point is, any new style deserves a good amount of time before putting yourself out there.
  5. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Las Vegas
    I've been doing various versions of rock and country for 30+ years now, and the biggest thing I keep relearning is to simplify for country. Traditional country has it's very obvious differences. The key that I've found with modern country is that, yes, it's essentially rock, but the rock runs and lines just do not always work in the context of country. The quickest thing I can think of for you, along with the already suggested "learn as much of this as you can and be prepared" is to just simplify what you would do in a rock context. Weedly weedly playing that works in a given rock song just won't necessarily fit country, even modern country to an extent.

    Simplify and you'll latch on to it just fine.
  6. eno50


    Jan 31, 2009
    North of Memphis

    He hit the nail on the head here.....
  7. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Man, the Nashville guys aren't stupid. They don't just play the notes, they speak the language. And they expect you to learn THEIR language, not the other way around. They don't have time to drag you along when there are 50 other bassists waiting in line to be standing where you are.

    You need to know some theory and chord structure. When the guitarist and keyboard player have a conversation about chord voicings in a song, they expect that everyone in the room understands what they just said and what it means to their individual parts. You need to be ready to read Nashville number system charts. They will spring a new song on you during a set break and expect that with a rough chart you can jump in and play the song. They all get trials by fire out there and they will put you through one as well.

    Although I have a pretty good grip on theory, and have read some number charts in the past, working with a couple of Nashville acts in which some of the members live out there was an eye-opening experience. If you are used to the days in a rock/pop band where everybody "learns their parts at home" and then runs through everything a few times each to make sure everybody has a warm fuzzy feeling about every single song, then you won't thrive in a pro country band situation. It doesn't work that way. Many of even the young cats work in small studios. They are used to getting a rough chart, maybe hear a little bit of a rough cut, maybe have a 15 second conversation about a special turn around, and then it's go time. Record the song in one or two takes and call it a day. And they want to work with people who can roll like that.

    It's a lot lees about how many country standards you know, and a lot more about how fast you can get something on the fly. They play those bars downtown and get requests for the most off the wall stuff. If ONE GUY in the band knows the song, he has a 15 second conversation with the rest of the band, and they just play it. It's pretty stinking impressive.
  8. Session1969

    Session1969 Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2010
  9. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I don't believe there are any shortcuts. You just need to listen to a lot of country music and learn the bass lines. AND feel the country equivalent of groove.
  10. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    There's your answer right there. Listen and learn. And of course know your theory, that goes without saying, no matter what genre.
  11. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    After 40+ years of playing I'm learning country too. Initially I stuck as close to the original recording as possible; when I stuck something extra in it usually didn't sound like 'real' country. I'm learning, but if you want to sound like authentic traditional country, play what the original guys played. If you don't care, then play what you want.
  12. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    It's like anything else. Just try to copy what the original is until you get the hang of it. Eventually you will be able to make up your own lines that have the right feel. Be sure to listen to all the nuances of the notes, too. Stuff like note length, for instance, is important.
  13. bluejack


    Dec 29, 2009
    Austin, Tx.
    Lots of good advice so far. If you're looking for an instructional book, ' The Lost Art of Country Bass ' by Keith Rosier is really good !

    I'm in the same boat as you and have an audition Sat.

  14. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I believe it was Dave Pomeroy who said "Find the simplest line you can possibly play, then play half of that!".
  15. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Best advice I ever got about playing bass was from an old country player. I asked him what his secret to success was, and he said: "Keep it low"

    Sometimes there really is no money to be made above the 7th fret.
  16. Marginal Tom

    Marginal Tom

    Apr 28, 2010
    O'Fallon, IL
    This. Most measures are root on the "one" and fifth on the "three," with short runs into chord changes. You're the band's timekeeper, never a featured performer. For classic country, KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is rule one. You'll seldom if ever play an eighth note, and you'll either play in cut time (on the ones and threes) or 4/4 with four quarter notes (on one, two, three and four, never syncopated). If you don't already know it, learn the Nashville numbering system.
  17. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Yep, Nashville numbers and the box are very good friends.

    Why, Nashville numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) are generic. Out of the audience comes the fat lady asking for Ab, and your music is in D. If you are using Nashville numbers and the box. No sweat. Move the box's 1 to the Ab and play your Nashville numbers.

    Course you have to transpose your chord names to numbers, but, once you do that you are ready for anything that comes down the pike. Love Nashville numbers.
  18. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    I keep hearing about "the box" what box are you guys talking about? can someone please explain how it works?
  19. Session1969

    Session1969 Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2010
    I had the opportunity ,about ten years ago, to talk with a bass player that only played country and he was up there in age to where he had to sit in a chair while playing(very experienced). I remember him mentioning that country doesn't really need a drummer because of that. I can't say I agree but, in essence, the one and the three you could look at being the bass drum and the two and the four the snare. I understood his point and reading your post sparked the memory. Thanks !
  20. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    As has been said, its more than just playing the notes, it the feel of where and how those notes are played. You just need to listen to country songs and hear how it is used.

    I learned by listening to Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and Johnny Cash box sets. That gave me enough reference to dip my toes in the water and get a feel for what needs to be done, not what can be done.